#ChemMovieCarnival: Testing Breaking Bad

I can’t believe  no one else has grabbed Breaking Bad for the Chemmoviecarnival.

In case you don’t know its a show about a high school chemistry teacher, called Walter White, who turns his talents to the production of  methamphetamine in an attempt to subliment his measly teacher’s income. In the course of the show Walt deploys his encyclopaedic chemistry knowledge to get him and his dopey (in more ways than one) sidekick out of a few sticky scrapes. They make a battery to jump start a RV, dissolve bodies with HF, prepare ricin to dispose of his enemies and so on.

There’s plenty of neat, and reasonably  accurate, chemistry in the show. But do Walt’s various solutions (pun intended) really hold up to scrutiny? I thought I’d have a go at putting some of them to the test . Fear not, I haven’t started a meth lab in my garage. Instead I tested the scene where our (anti) heros use thermite to melt through a lock.

Here’s my set up. A nice tube of thermite sitting on top of a locked padlock.


Fire in the hole!

And its not looking good for the padlock. All that molten iron can’t have done it much good.

But after everything has cooled down….

One intact padlock! It won’t open, because I think the locking mechanism  has melted, but it would certainly keep a door locked.

So I guess that’s a chemistry fail for Walt and Breaking Bad. 

p.s. I think you folks over at Reddit might have taken me a whole lot more seriously than was my intent.



  1. That is awesome! But would the lock of been as effective immediately following “burnination” and then being subjected to trauma, such as by trying to pull the door open or hitting it with a hammer?

    • Good point, maybe I should have cooled it rapidly and then given it a whack with a hammer. But then that’s not what Walt did in the show.

      Incidentally, picture of the lock is after I’d tried to melt through it a second time by packing the thermite around it.

      Those things are tougher than they look!

  2. i can only think of one word to classify the reactions of those breaking bad fans on reddit: “butthurt”. people do love their soap operas…

  3. Of course Reddit took you too seriously, that’s what Reddit does best.

    Back to Breaking Bad, thoguh. If I remember correctly there are a few times that they seriously botch the pronunciation of methylamine. They say “Meth Amine”.

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